Sermon – The Eighth Sunday of Luke
The Eighth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
November 12, 2023
If I were to simply read to you the words from the teaching of St. John Chrysostom on the subject of Christian compassion and mercy, it would be a severe judgment upon our lives. The teachings of St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Great, St. Clement of Alexandra and St. Ambrose are very similar. St. John taught and believed very adamantly that you and I must prioritize what are the necessities of life: food, clothing, a roof, walls, shoes and the like; all else, according to John, were “superfluous.” In his own words: “Behold how only a few things are sufficient for you; nor does God ask much of you. Seek as much as he has given you, and from that take as much as is necessary; the superfluous things which remain are the necessities of the poor. They who possess superfluities possess the goods of others.”
In another context of St. John’s writings we hear him speak in a way that brings it closer to home: “Do I possess the house in which I live? No, it is only on loan to me from God [as] I remain in that place. [Some would say on loan to me from the mortgage company.] Do I possess the clothes I wear? No, they are on loan to me until they wear out, or until I give them away to someone in greater need. Do I possess this body that you see before you? No, it was lent to me until the day I die. Do I possess the mind that is composing the words that I speak? No, that too was lent by God at my birth and will go when I die. So do I possess anything? Yes, I possess the virtues which during my life I have grown and nourished within my soul. Inasmuch as I have grown in gentleness, I possess gentleness. These things are immortal; they are divine gifts which God will not take away because He wants heaven itself to be filled with virtue. And of course, I possess my soul, in which these virtues have their roots.”
The Gospel lessons during these months are not intended to make us feel guilty about what we are not doing. And God does not have “an axe to grind” with the rich. The Gospel lessons are intended to help us to understand the purpose of giving. Is giving something we do in order to get something in return? Many businesses operate on this premise and have been successful; however, our purpose is not to function as a business.
The heart of today’s Gospel lesson can be summed up by the words of the prophet Hosea (quoted twice by our Lord in St. Matthew’s Gospel): I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). The point of the lesson is not about giving. It is more accurately about having mercy, just as God was merciful to us. His sacrifice was the result of his love and mercy. And the action of His sacrifice was something that was done with joy. In fact we are reminded in scripture that “God loves a cheerful giver!” Similarly for us, Christian deeds of mercy stem from our thankful hearts.
In the context of the 1st century Christ was making two points: 1) our neighbor is not only those who are of our race or faith (for such was the Judaic understanding of His day); moreover, the Samaritan in the parable, the person who does the good deed, and who was notably not a Jew, is the one who is also called a “neighbor” by the Lord. In other words, a neighbor is not only the human person who is the object of one’s loving care, but the person who out of love deals compassionately with someone in need; for we hear Jesus ask: Which of these do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among thieves? The lesson emphasizes that it is as much on the attitude and the act of being a neighbor as it is on seeing others as neighbors. Furthermore, if we love God with all our being, every human being becomes our neighbor, and we are to be neighbors to everyone.
Second, the negligence of the priest and the Levite, according to Jesus, justified themselves by a perverted understanding of the Law. (Numbers 6:6-7 prevented one from touching an unclean thing to avoid ceremonial defilement. Moreover, it is possible to assume that the victim on the roadside was regarded as a person who was not “one of their own kind.”) Today’s lesson is very difficult for us today. It may very possibly be a greater challenge to you and me, then it was to those who failed to be neighbors in our Lord’s time. Today we can think of many more ways to justify our “not being involved,” “not taking any chances,” “not getting ourselves into any legal situation.” And while it is true that we should all learn to be responsible persons, the fact remains that regardless of our position in life, God desires us to be neighbors to everyone and to regard every person as our neighbor.
Only you and I will know when we are called to respond. No one will need to tell us. That response may not only pertain to someone like the Samaritan in the parable – someone who is not like us or near to us. It may be someone in our own family or a co-worker, a classmate. The need may not even be food or shelter, but may involve taking the time to help someone to have courage to face a personal challenge or overcoming a disability. The need may also not even pertain to finances, but one’s time, friendly companionship and and perhaps loneliness. The struggle may not even pertain to having enough of something, but overcoming a serious addiction or obsession. In some cases it may require the trained help of a counselor or therapist.
Whatever the situation, you and I are not called to judge anyone. At the same time, God has also given you and I common sense. Asking for discernment in order to truly help someone is not a sin. Being placed in a situation of knowing that you can make a difference and failing to respond is the sin of omission.
Finally, having just commemorated Veteran’s Day (November 11), I have chosen to conclude my message with a quote from the message delivered by the President of the United States early Wednesday morning, November, 7, 2012: The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America is never been about what can be done for us. [America is] about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on. This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps [people from] coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together [what is] the most diverse nation on earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations [to each other] and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.
Almighty God, help us in our misconceptions like the rich young man, who considered himself justified. As we now approach your holy altar and dare to partake of your Holy Body and precious blood may we never assume or even presume that it was not without a price, not without a sacrifice and certainly not without love that you bore the sins of the world. As we approach your sacred meal, we approach in faith and love and ever thankful for your great mercy. We lay aside all worldly cares and any defense of what we may have thought to be our own righteousness. Keep us in your protective care. Illumine our leaders, strengthen our nation, guard and protect our armed forces and grant us peaceful times that we in their tranquility may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.